As I was preparing for this weeks newsletter, I knew that I wanted to show something that would work great on Mother's day especially with lots of family coming over to spend the day with Mom.
Smoked pork loin became the obvious choice and after cooking it and tasting the tenderness and juiciness this particular method produced, I knew that this would be an easy winner in many households this coming Sunday or almost any other special day for that matter.
Not only is smoked pork loin a great choice in terms of flavor, it is also lean and healthy right up there with the white meat of chicken and I know that will also be something a lot of Mom's will appreciate.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours (can vary based on thickness and whether you tie it up or not)
- Smoker Temp: 225-240°F
- Meat Finish Temp: 145°F (do not exceed this temperature)
- Recommended Wood: Cherry and apple mix (or any fruitwood)
- Half pork loin (Buy the whole loin and cut it in half or just buy a half if it's available. If you need more meat, cook both halves and double the recipe on the herb rub) Very little shrinkage so about ½ lb per person
- Olive oil (extra virgin is best)
- Jeff's original rub recipe (purchase the recipe here)
- Herb rub (recipe below)
- Cooking twine
Below are the general amounts needed to make this herb rub. Note: if you must use previously chopped or dried herbs, it will end up being around 2-3 TBS of thyme and 1 tsp of rosemary to give you an idea of the ratio. Rosemary is very strong and only a little is needed in comparison to the thyme.
- About a cup of fresh thyme sprigs (hard to measure things like this.. just a good handful)
- 1-½ sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 heaping tablespoons of my original rub (purchase rub recipe)
- ½ cup of olive oil (you may opt to use more if it's not liquid enough)
Place all ingredients into a food processor for best results or you can chop herbs and garlic by hand and mix with the oil and rub until well combined.
Garlic cloves did not make it into the picture.. they were shy 😉
Remove as much of the fat from the outside of the meat as possible including the silver skin with a sharp knife.
I like to cut off the tapered end to square it up (if applicable)
You don't have to but it does make it look nicer in my opinion.
Make diagonal cuts on all sides about ¼ inch deep to give the rub extra surface area to stick to.
The pork loin is now ready for the seasoning process.
Brush on some olive oil to help the rub to stick.
Place about half of the herb rub on the top side of the pork loin and rub it all over the top and sides of the meat.
Flip the pork loin over and put the other half of the herb rub on the bottom side and more on the sides and ends wherever needed.
Place the rubbed pork loin into a bowl with a lid (I like to use the Ziploc® bowls that you use a few times then throw away but your choice here).
Put the bowl with the pork loin into the fridge for about 4-6 hours or overnight is even better.
A few minutes before you are ready to smoke the meat, take the pork loin out of the fridge and place it on a Bradley rack or some other pan to make it easy to transport out to the smoker.
Tying up the pork loin is a very good idea in that it makes the pork loin round instead of oblong and this will help it to cook more evenly. It also makes the roast look better in my opinion.
I simply cut 7-8 strings and tied a basic knot on each one.
I recommend tying a string around the meat about every inch or so all the way along the pork loin half.
If you look closely at the picture below, you can see how I did it.
If you would like to learn how to tie it up as a butcher would, here's a video which does a great job explaining and showing how to do it.
I used my GOSM propane smoker for this smoked pork loin with a mix of apple and cherry but you can use any smoker known to man or even a grill as long as you can maintain 225°F and provide some smoke to the heated environment.
For those of you who have gas smokers and specifically the ones made by Landmann or Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain, I mentioned a while back that I could fill the chip/chunk pan with pellets (like the ones made for pellet smokers) and get 4+ hours of smoke. Well, this is a great method but I did not feel like I was getting as much flavor from the pellets as I normally do with actual chips and chunks of wood.
Recently I have been placing 6-8 chunks of wood in the wood box and then filling it the rest of the way with pellets. This method has been giving me the more pronounced smoke flavor that I wanted with the longer smoke times (3-4 hours).
At any rate, whatever smoker you have will work just fine as long as you are able to maintain a temperature in the 225-240 °F range for about 3-4 hours straight with minimal need to open the door or lid.
Get the smoker preheated to 225°F and once it is holding steady, you are ready to smoke.
Place the pork loin directly on the grate or use a Bradley rack.
Let it smoke cook for about 3.5 – 4 hours or until it reaches 145°F in the center of the meat using a tested digital probe meat thermometer. When it reaches 145°F, remove it immediately from the heat, it is done.
If you have a water pan in your smoker, be sure to use it. It does a lot of good things for the smoking environment and should be used whenever possible.
I recommend adding smoke for at least 2 hours but it also completely fine and even recommended to add well-vented, light smoke for the entire time it is cooking. I do this almost without fail and I love the well pronounced smoke flavors that I get in my charcoal, electric and gas smokers by using this method.
The pork loin will cool down quickly so with it only being 145°F in the center when it is finished, there is not a good reason to let it sit and rest for any length of time in my opinion. Remove the cooking twine if you tied it up, slice into ½ inch slices and serve immediately.
Watch the Temperature of the Pork Loin
If you don't remember anything else, remember this: the most important thing you can do to make sure that this pork loin comes out juicy and tender is to use a trusted, tested meat thermometer and when it reaches 145°F in the center, it is done. Remove it from the smoker immediately.
In fact, I like to remove it at about 142°F knowing that it will continue to cook for a few minutes even after I remove it and should come up another 3-5 degrees.
In years past, we were taught to cook pork to a much higher temperature and this resulted in something that just wasn't as palatable as it could have been. The USDA has now informed us that 145°F is completely safe for pork and it has been music to my ears and my stomach ever since.
Maintain as close to 225°F in your smoker as possible and DON'T trust that factory thermometer.. it is most likely not accurate.
If you have a digital probe meat thermometer, (you should try your best to get one if you don't), push the probe through a potato horizontally and lay the potato on the grate right next to the pork loin or whatever meat you are cooking. This will give you an accurate reading of what the meat is experiencing.
The potato is just a device to hold the thermometer probe up off the grate but you can eat the potato when you are finished if you want to.
I recommend the “Smoke” by Thermoworks for a “leave-in-the-smoker” thermometer and the Thermapen for checking the temperature of the meat on the spot (it reads in about 2 seconds and I never cook without it anymore.
Yep.. He Said it!
Even if you DON'T have a smoker YET, this entire method will work great in the home oven using the same preparation and temperature recommendations. Having said that, this recipe is SO much better done with smoke and that is a fact.
You owe it to yourself to get a smoker, even if it is a cheap one or a 2nd hand one found at a yard sale and learn how to use it.
You will soon find yourself using the oven less and less.
Why is the Meat Pink?
If you cook the pork correctly and call it done at 145°F in the center, it will probably be a little pink as you can see in the picture below.
For this reason, you may have folks ask you why the meat is pink and, if they are really out of touch with reality, they may even insinuate that the meat is not properly done.
All you can do is try to educate them and hope they accept the facts as they are today and not as they were in yesteryears.
Perfectly done whole (unground) pork will be a little pink and should be juicy, tender and tasty. If it's dry and tastes like a hockey puck, it's most likely overcooked.
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- Half pork loin (Buy the whole loin and cut it in half or just buy a half if it’s available. If you need more meat, cook both halves and double the recipe on the herb rub) Very little shrinkage so about ½ lb per person Olive oil (extra virgin is best) Jeff’s rub recipe Herb rub (recipe below) Cooking twine
Make the Herb Rub